Some members of the Marlins -- including manager Fredi Gonzalez, outfielder Chris Coghlan and president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest -- spent the past week in Iraq on a goodwill mission, visiting troops. Marlins catcher John Baker has agreed to serve as a foreign correspondent, sharing his thoughts and observations on the trip by sending occasional updates to Fish Bytes. Here's his latest.
Time for reflection. Up in the air, somewhere between DC and San Francisco, on the last leg of a twenty four hour travel day...
As I look back on this experience, the people I’ve met and the things I’ve seen, I am overwhelmed with different emotions. It makes me want to live my life in a much more aggressive and proactive fashion. One can only hear someone say, “When I get out of here and go back home I am going to...” so many times with out feeling guilty. I am home. I am “out of here”. I feel a renewed sense of responsibility to seize life, to make the most of each day because each day of freedom is a gift. Our freedom is protected everyday by our armed forces, take away their power, and we as a nation are powerless. Take away their courage, and we will (and SHOULD) be scared. I feel that I have been generally unaware in the past, not in tune to what is really happening in our nation and around the world. I feel embarrassed in my aloof attitude towards our military affairs and global policies, but vow to become more educated and in tune.
I would be lying if I didn’t mention that a few times I looked around and thought “what the hell are we doing here?” I wondered why it is OUR men and women that stand guard at the Iraq and Iran border. How come OUR Marine Corps has to guard the IA General, what is wrong with the IA? But then I talked with the people there and it all became clear. I remembered what we stand for as a country, united against tyranny in our infancy and obligated to protect the weak as we have grown powerful. Not obligated by law, but obligated by our nature as Americans. Many may argue that we shouldn’t be in Iraq at all, but I will say that the overwhelming response from the Iraqis I met is that their country is in a much better place now, than it was ten years ago. They seem very grateful for our help and guidance. Our service members don’t want our pity for their difficult situation, they want our support. They chose their careers.
Another interesting aspect is the sense of team and teamwork. Everyone is united in the same goal, everyone works together. They are the type of people that cannot accept a personal compliment. Every time I received positive feed back, it sounded like this, “What you are doing, just being here, really means a lot to these guys, they really appreciate it.” Never once did people say it in an individual way, they are too tough to admit to something like that. They care more about the man standing next to them than they do about themselves. This sentiment was expressed by the lowest of the enlisted and the highest of the officers that we met. This sentiment moved seamlessly throughout each individual branch and unified our entire armed forces. These people risk their lives to protect our country and our interests without regret. They are my heroes.
The next time you see a veteran, do your part to say thank you, regardless if you believe in our government's politics or motivations for being in any conflict. These soldiers are real people that make a big sacrifice for us, never forget that. I never will.
-- John Baker
If you want to read more about Baker and the trip, you're invited to visit his personal blog at www.johnbakerbaseball.com or follow him on Twitter at @manbearwolf. Coghlan is also updating the Iraq trip on his Twitter account: @cogz4Christ